In Garden City, young lacrosse fans flock to the Woodstick Classic.
They watch their hometown Trojans face Manhasset in a rivalry that had its 129th installment Saturday, and they hope to participate one day.
Finn Gibbons and J.P. Basile were once those kids. On Saturday, they pulled Garden City one step closer to evening the all-time series with a 9-7 Nassau B-I victory at home.
Manhasset holds a 70-59 record against the Trojans.
“You look forward to this game and getting a chance to put on a white jersey and play against Manhasset,” said Gibbons, who scored four times.
Or as Basile (two goals, two assists) said, “It’s the Woodstick and playoffs. It’s the biggest thing ever.”
Under ordinary circumstances, emotions run high in the Woodstick Classic. This week was anything but ordinary in Garden City.
Former lacrosse and football star Eddie Blatz Jr., 21, died last Sunday. The Trojans (4-0) honored him, hanging his No. 14 jersey from the scorer’s table at midfield. They wore shirts underneath their jerseys with Blatz’s name emblazoned on the back — along with the hashtag #14strong — and they wrote his initials and numbers on their helmets and gloves.
“This game is 100 percent dedicated to him,” Basile said.
But Manhasset (3-1) nearly stole the show.
The Indians scored five straight goals — starting with Kevin Mack’s man-up finish with 2:19 left in the second quarter and ending with Kyle Cherry’s deposit with 10:40 remaining in the fourth — to take a 7-6 lead.
“It was scary, but we fought back,” Basile said. “EB14. We believed and it happened.”
Jamie Atkinson scored from the left side with 8:41 left, tying the score at 7. Then Gibbons came off Sean Dillmeier’s pick and finished with 6:26 remaining. Two and a half minutes later, Gibbons provided a two-goal cushion after catching a slick feed from Basile.
“Whenever we want to get a goal, we give [Basile] the ball,” Gibbons said. “He can run by anyone. He just kept his head up, saw me and I finished it.”
Garden City coach Steve Finnell saw shades of Blatz in his team’s refusal to let Manhasset sustain its run.
“Resiliency, resolve, heart,” Finnell said. “They’re playing for something more than just themselves today, which is important. We talk about that all the time — play for your teammates — and Eddie was a great teammate. I think that was well-represented.”